I first wrote this article earlier in the year. Salon hygiene is one of the most important practices a nail tech must get right. I think its important to revisit it from time to time to ensure you don't miss anything!
Now this is a very contentious topic, everyone has their ways of dealing with hygiene in the salon and with their clients. What’s more interesting is that different countries have different methods of hygiene in the salon so which one is best for you and your clients? I think the first thing we need to establish is what are the rules and regulations of the land and why are they so important in a nail s
alon. The UK does not regulate the nail industry as much we would like unlike other countries such as the US for example, where certain substances like methyl methacrylate, or MMA are banned for the use in nail salons/ bars. This opens up another topic for another time but nevertheless highlights the importance of regulation in the nail industry.
So what can you get/catch from a nail salon? Fungal infections, hepatitis C, warts, allergic reactions (over exposure), infections from incorrect prep such as cutting the cuticles are to name just a few. They area result from incorrect knowledge and hygiene routines. One of the most obvious reasons not to treat a client is looking for contraindications in the first instance.
Every tech experiences some sort of contraindications and can be worse when it's on one of your regular clients. There's nothing more horrifying. I remember a day where one of my own clients presented me with one. I was completely mortified. It was a result of her catching her nail in the car door and gluing it back down herself which gave her nail the optimal conditions for bacterial growth… lovely! However these are treatable once the air hits them and you treat it accordingly and throw away anything disposable that you have used, and sterilise everything else.
However, this is where some salons fail to understand or fail to adhere to the minimal recommendations of hygiene in nail treatments and conditions are passed around. How can we prevent poor hygiene in the first place? As I mentioned above, one of the first things to stop conditions coming into the salon is a techs knowledge of contraindications and what to look out for before laying your own hands on clients even before a brush is picked up! Most importantly we never diagnose these conditions, we are trained to identify themselves to protect ourselves and other clients, but we are not medical professionals. If you think you know what it is, do not tell your client your suspicion, your job is to refer them to the GP.
Contraindications for refusal of nail treatments:
PARONYCHIA – An infection of the skin surrounding the nail. The most likely cause of this condition is the skin around the nail being compromised and an infection sneaking in. It will look red and very angry. It will be sore for the client and can fill with pus. We would be unable to treat a client with signs of this. The client would need to see their Doctor and would probably need a course of antibiotics to clear this up.
PSEUDOMONAS - A bacterial infection as mentioned above that presents itself as green/brown stain. It is contagious, so anything used that is disposable must be thrown away and any instruments used if at all must be completely cleaned, disinfected and sterilised.
ONYCHOMYCOSIS - Fungal Infection typically yellow in colour – highly infectious and should be referred to a GP.
PSORIASIS – not contagious but is classically presented with pitting of the nail. At the discretion of the tech or may be worked on with note from GP. Check with salon insurance.
N.B. The list above is by far means not exhaustive for contraindications or as a complete list of disorders that you should not be working on.
Disposables: files, toe separators, cotton wool, orange wood sticks etc.
They are labelled as such as they are relatively cheap and usually when used on a client is then usually thrown away.
What do you do for those implements in the salon that you keep? Sanitation Disinfection or Sterilisation? Are you aware of what the differences are?
DISINFECTION AND SANITATION - These methods eliminate a high number of micro-organisms, but not all. This is still deemed a high enough level of cleaning within a nail salon in most cases.
STERILISATION - The highest level of cleaning, this eliminates all micro-organisms and their spores.
How do we sanitise?
The general accepted term for this is washing implements used in a manicure service so that they are free and from dirt and debris. This eliminates some of the microorganisms before they can be disinfected and is usually done with soap and water. This is the most BASIC level of general hygiene.
How do we disinfect?
Again the most common disinfectant used within a salon environment is through the use of chemical product in a liquid form which eliminates the high majority pathogenic microorganisms but not necessarily all microbial forms. One of the most popular disinfectants is called Barbicide. Barbicide comes in a formula where the nail technician waters it down into a glass dish where implements are put in after being sanitised in between clients. The use of anti-bacterial surface sprays for wiping of nail stations and other surfaces which a similar solutions i.e Mundo products must also be included in your hygiene routine. There are many brands of products that do the same job, please check the instructions before use. Mundo and Barbicide are just a few.
How do we Sterilise?
The most common way to sterilise equipment eliminating within a salon environment is by use of an autoclave. This method uses high pressure steam and a high temperature and is deemed a hospital standard of sterilisation. This is the highest form of sterilisations but here in the UK it is not deemed mandatory in a nail salon.
The main thing to think of when it comes to hygiene is to ask yourself if you would you have your nails done in your place of work knowing what you see everyday? What do you look at when choosing a nail salon? I know if I walked into a salon and didn't see the correct hygiene being adhered to or if the the general level of hygiene was poor, I certainly wouldn't have a treatment done. Your place of work needs to represent you as a nail tech and represent your beliefs and high expectations of what a salon should be. Be the person who is meticulous at hygiene which shows current clients and potential clients how serious you are as a tech and as a business!
You can never be too clean!